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Building Bridges
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Building Bridges
NASW-NYC New Professionals Task Force Engages New Social Workers

Launa Kliever, LMSW, Co-Chair, NASW-NYC New Professionals Task Force

April 2008

 

It’s the end of a long day at work. You’re exhausted, but happy that it’s the 3rd Thursday of the month. Riding the F train to a local bar in downtown Manhattan, you recount parts of your week. Yesterday, you were informed that another 10 people would be added to your already-heavy caseload of 31 clients. This morning, you tried to reschedule a meeting with your (non-social worker) supervisor to secure her signature on a grant due next Monday, only to find out that she will be out of town for another week. Although you are frustrated, you are hardly surprised. Eight weeks ago, you asked for help on the grant and she dismissed you, saying that she didn’t really see the necessity of your program anyway. Now, as you walk through the doors of the establishment, you see that some of the other members of the NASW-NYC New Professionals Task Force have already claimed a banquette in the corner. They wave you over. The tension in your shoulders starts to dissipate and you’re able to take what feels like the first deep breath of the day. You know you’ll be met with understanding and compassion, respect and support, humor and camaraderie. You know that at the end of the evening, you’ll walk away having been reminded of why you love social work, marveling at how the pressures of your job threaten to obscure that reality on a daily basis. You know you’ll feel inspired.

Grounding & Accomplishment

Through monthly gatherings across the city, the New Professionals Task Force has engaged dozens of new social workers, combating the isolation commonly felt during our first years in the profession. These Meet-Ups are just one of many activities that the Task Force has organized since our inception in June of 2006. Suffering no dearth of critical issues, the leadership of the Task Force has continued to hone the direction of the growing collective of passionate and committed social workers. Additional challenges facing new professionals that emerged from focus groups held by NASW-NYC in late 2005/early 2006 are high caseloads, lack of supervision, and low salaries, which still ring true two years later.

Within the work of the New York City Chapter of NASW and in collaboration with its staff, we have continued to push the envelope of new professionals’ concerns. Among the Task Force’s influence are the development of a Task Force on Supervision, the identification and formal recognition of emerging social work leaders, and the hiring of a part-time Licensing Specialist. Additionally, new professional social workers are important supporters of the lobbying efforts of the Chapter for the Loan Forgiveness Program, are represented on the NASW-NYC staff and now have a strong presence on the NASW-NYC Board of Directors.

Vision & Growth

For many new professionals, the Task Force has become a forum to discuss the nature of the profession itself – what it means to call ourselves social workers and what we think the future of the profession holds. The Task Force has a tagline that articulates our current needs and also points to the future: “Advocacy, Connection, Peer Support.” In order to persist in our abilities to be effective advocates for our clients, we need to put ourselves among those we serve; we must advocate for ourselves. We need to take full advantage of the myriad of ways to forge and maintain professional connections; our modes of relationship-building are substantially different than those of our more seasoned counterparts. The structures within agencies and organizations that provided a kind of step-by-step scaffolding for our predecessors to climb fifteen years ago are no longer in existence; we often must look elsewhere for supervisory guidance and wisdom while we simultaneously learn to build new, mutual-support arrangements.

Direction & Striving

As the New Professionals Task Force moves into its third year, currently co-chaired by Launa Kleiver and Alison Franks, we are more excited than ever about enacting positive change within the profession. Through an application process in late 2007, we brought on six, stellar new members. We held our most recent Steering Committee Retreat at the end of February and launched into our action plan for the remainder of the calendar year.

In addition to expanding the success of the Task Force Meet-Ups and continuing to lend support to many of the NASW-NYC’s endeavors, we plan to build bridges between new professionals and other contingents of social workers, including students of social work and more seasoned professionals.

We hope to build on the rich exchange that took place when several members of the New Professionals Task Force met with NASW’s Social Work Pioneers. A pilot mentoring project is in the works. And, in turn, we recognize the importance of sharing some of our newly-found wisdom with our peers coming up in MSW programs across the city. Educational workshops given by new professionals arm MSW students with information that can be valuable in their job searches and can make a vital difference in the broader effort to establish new standards within the profession.
Finally, we are creating more opportunities for peer education and peer mentoring among new professionals and to initiate new methods of connection and outreach – spreading our work to increasing numbers of our colleagues and developing our collective voice.

If you are a social worker who has been in the field for less than ten years, is concerned about the future of the profession and has a strong desire to stimulate positive growth and change, please consider attending our next monthly Meet-Up on April 17, 2008 at 6:30pm at Dinosaur BBQ, 646 W 131st Street.

To be added to the Task Force email list and/or to get more information about additional activities, please contact us at new.professionals.task.force@gmail.com. We look forward to your participation.

 

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